Webinar Recap: MTSS for Addressing Mental Health Services in Schools


Did you miss our last webinar? Well it’s not too late to catch up on what you missed. On August 25, we launched our Fall lineup of Office Hours with Dr. John Kelly. This year we’re going to look at the multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) within K-12 schools and explore the three tiers of support as well as several other aspects that can drive greater student success.

With this first webinar, our guest speaker was none other than Dr. John Kelly himself, where he presented the big ideas around the MTSS framework to lay the foundation for the rest of the Office Hours with Dr. John Kelly webinars during 2022-23 school year.


Dr. John Kelly is a retired school psychologist from the Commack School District, where he worked for 35 years. He is also an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s University in the School Psychology program. He earned his Ph.D. in Clinical and School Psychology from Hofstra University. Dr. Kelly has presented at numerous national and international conferences on topics that include mental and behavioral health services for children, advocacy training for school psychologists, legislative issues related to education and children, leadership development, violence and bullying prevention, and suicide awareness. Dr. Kelly is on the Executive Board of the New York Association of School Psychologists (NYASP) and is a Past-President of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Dr. Kelly has received numerous state and national awards, including the NYS School Practitioner of the Year in 2001 and the NASP School Psychologist of the Year in 2003.


Supporting children’s mental health is critical to their success in school and life. Mental health services for children and youth are most effective when provided as a continuum of care that integrates schools, families, and communities. This continuum of care is most commonly known as a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS). The MTSS framework encompasses prevention and wellness promotion, universal screening for academic and behavioral barriers to learning, and implementing evidence-based interventions that increase in intensity based upon specific student needs.

This presentation discusses the basic elements of a MTSS Framework, helps the audience to distinguish between academic MTSS and mental/behavioral health MTSS, and the benefits of using a MTSS Framework to structure mental health supports in schools.

Dr. Kelly’s amazing presentation focuses specifically on the following big ideas:

1. Multi- tiered systems of support that include prevention and intervention services improve behavior in schools.
2. Multi-tiered systems of support improve access to needed services and resources.
3. Service delivery within a multi-tiered system of supports increases student engagement and improves achievement.

Once he concludes the presentation, he segues into a lively and informative discussion with our own Jeremy Glauser. So even if you missed the “live presentation”, you can still get all of the benefit by watching or listening to the recording, or reading the transcript – all below.

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John Kelly (00:00:01):
Hey, good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to have you back. My name is John Kelly. If you’re a previous attendee, you know that I’m a school psychologist, now a retired school psychologist, but more about that later on, but I wanna welcome in Jeremy Glauser my new friend and CEO of eLuma. So Jeremy, let me let you open things up. 

Jeremy Glauser (00:00:24):
It’s so good to be here, John. This is such a wonderful series. I’m so excited to kick off this incredible content, incredible lineup of speakers to come. And today we’re going to focus on the multi-tiered system of supports for addressing mental health services in schools. And John has prepared an overview and then John and I will also discuss questions. If you can go to the introduction and the agenda for us, John, I’ll walk us through who eLuma is and introduce John. And just a few housekeeping items, but like John said, I’m the founder and CEO of eLuma. And really for us, it’s about helping students achieve their full potential. And it just so happens that we get to work with kids in special education and mental health. It’s such a blessing every day. It’s highly motivating and we are founded in 2011.

Jeremy Glauser (00:01:23):
So we’ve been around for quite some time, over 300 team members and we’re in 36 states, just passed 32,000 students. The big milestone that we are celebrating as a, as a team, we’d encourage you to follow us on, on Twitter or on Facebook. You can find our information there. We strive to create really good, valuable content that will help you as a professional, as a parent, as a human being. So let’s walk through what you can expect. We will jump into a presentation here that will be about 25 minutes or so then John and I will have a, a discussion and, and we’ll have a QA, and we invite you to ask questions throughout the presentation, and then we will take them at the end as part of a discussion and a live dialogue that John and I will be having at the bottom of zoom. You’ll see a chat that you can enter a question into. You can also see that we have closed captioning at the bottom of the slides, if you need that. And John correct me if I’m wrong, but you were saying that they can turn on the closed captioning through zoom as well. Is that correct?

John Kelly (00:02:46):
That’s correct. Yeah, there’s, there’s a close captioning button if anyone does need that that is available on the toolbar.

Jeremy Glauser (00:02:54):
Perfect. Thank you for clarifying that this series is really focused on MTSS and mental health. It’s going to last the entire school year. You can see some of the great people that are coming up. Kelly Vaillancourt, Shauna Kelly, Maurice Elias and Paula Morrison. So make sure you go to eluma.com/webinars. That’s where you can sign up. That’s where you will be able to register. We always send out a recording and content after the webinars, if you’re not able to attend live. So please register for this great content. And we’ll go through some additional information about what’s coming up at the end of our discussion today without further ado, I want to introduce John Kelly. John is an incredible human being and has accomplished a lot and very excited to celebrate a recent retirement as a school psychologist from Comac school district, where he was at for 35 years, an incredible professional career and excited for you, John, as you get to, you know, do some new and exciting things.

Jeremy Glauser (00:04:11):
He’s also an adjunct professor at St. John’s university in the school psychology program, and some really key accomplishments here for me that just show his ambition and his way of giving back to, to what we’re all trying to accomplish, but served as the executive on the executive board for the New York association of school psych, and then also was past president for NASP received numerous state and national awards, including the New York the NY school practitioner of the year, as well as the NAS school psychologist of the year. I think it’s safe to say John is a pretty accomplished person, but what’s more, John is very committed to this field and is just a great human all around. I am getting to know John more and more, and love every, every minute that I’ve got. So John, I won’t rub your ego anymore. You know, it’s sincere, you know, it’s true. And so with that, I’m gonna hand it off to you.

John Kelly (00:05:22):
Well, Jeremy, thank you. I, you know, it’s always a little strange listening to someone kind of describe your bio and I, I do appreciate everything that you share there. Thank you very much. And I know I’ve said this before, but I’m very grateful for the relationship that, that, that I’ve built with, with the eLuma and certain the opportunity to have my office hours hosted by and certainly to partner with you on these presentations.

Jeremy Glauser (00:05:50):
And you know, what I just realized John is I think I would, I think you were gonna go through some of the office hours and I went ahead.

John Kelly (00:05:56):
And plowed right through that. So if there’s, it’s a conversation, please add, it’s all good. It’s a conversation, Jeremy. And that, and that’s the key thing. I, you know, I, I am excited about this, this kind of new series, as you had said before, because what we’ve decided to, rather than do kind of discrete presentations, or had discrete conversations at different times during the school year, we’ve decided to create this series for you, for the audience around multi-tiered systems of support and really breaking down, what is multi-tiered systems of support framework? How does it really work within the schools? What does it look like? What are some of the things we need to be doing in the schools? Because we realize that for many folks, whether you be an administrator, an educator, or a clinician working within the schools, it might look different.

John Kelly (00:06:49):
You might struggle with different aspects of it. So today what we wanna do was just really provide an overview of multi-tiered systems of support, how it relates to some of the other things we’re doing in the schools. I’m gonna present some big ideas. And then as Jeremy said, and I are gonna kind of dive into a real good conversation about it, we do welcome your questions, your thoughts throughout the webinar please feel free to type it into the chat box. Our good friend, George Dayton is gonna be monitoring that chat box. And if something seems relevant, George, during the conversation, feel free to kind of jump right in and, and, and bring it up to, to Jeremy and I. So without further ado I, I do want to start with some of the big ideas and being a good Irishman.

John Kelly (00:07:36):
You’ll have to forgive me and kind of go with it for, for just a little bit. I love to tell stories. You get me, you know, started on, on a story and I’m gonna kind of just keep going, but I love to incorporate stories into my presentations themselves. And this is one of my favorite ones, particularly as we talk about multi-tiered systems to support, it’s a story about a small village at the bottom of a river at the mouth of a river. And one day one of the villagers goes out to the Riverside and he sees a small child floating by in the river. And so he quickly jumps into the river, swims out, grabs the child, brings him back to shore and sends the child back home. The next day, the same villager is down there and he’s just admiring the scenery.

John Kelly (00:08:25):
And now he sees two children coming by. He quickly swims out, grabs both of the kids, brings them back to shore and sends them on their way. The third day he’s down there. Now he sees a group of children floating downstream, and he calls a few of his friends from the village and says, “please come help.” We need to save these children. And they dive in, they grab the children, bring them back to shore and send them back up. They finally get together and they say, if this is happening every day, we need to put together a team. What we need, people monitoring that river, making sure that no kids are getting by and the kids that are floating downstream, we need to jump in. We need to save those kids. And so sure enough, what the village did was they put together a team that would stay out there throughout the day early evening, watching four kids that might be floating by until one day, one of the village elders said, what are we doing?

John Kelly (00:09:27):
Why don’t we just take a walk back up shore and find out where these kids are coming from? Why are so many kids floating by the river? Why do we have to jump in every day just to save them in this crisis? And sure enough, they went back upstream. And what they found was that there was a bridge that many children tried to cross to go over. That was missing slats in it, it was missing boards. And so some of the kids were able to make it across and jump across and, and do just fine. But other kids were falling through those cracks in the bridge, falling through those missing slots and into the river and floating downstream. Now, if we think about it, isn’t that kind of what we do in the schools where we dive into that river every day with the kids for 35 years, I spent my days diving into that river kids in crisis, kids who were struggling, academically, kids who were struggling with mental health issues.

John Kelly (00:10:35):
And we would dive in and we would save them. We’d pull them back to shore and then send them back to the classroom or send them back home. But there are times we need to stop and think, what are we missing within our systems? What are we missing in terms of planks that might help some of those kids before we have to dive into the river before we have to intervene in a crisis situation, because the reality is that many of our kids in 2022 are struggling. They’re struggling. It’s been a difficult few years. I’m not gonna spend time talking about the pandemic and the impact. We’ve all heard about the impact, the pandemic. We’re at a point where it’s just a recognition that there have been major, major changes in the way that our kids are feeling and major, major changes in the way our kids are functioning and they’re struggling.

John Kelly (00:11:34):
And they bring a lot more into the classroom than those books and papers and pens that we always think are in that backpack. No, they’re dealing with a lot more issues that have nothing to do with curriculum that have nothing to do with what the best teachers are gonna present in that classroom. They’re dealing with a lot of issues, oftentimes that they’re bringing in from the outside. You know, we’ve heard about the declaration of a national emergency the, the American Academy of Children in Adolescent Psychiatry, the pediatricians, the Children’s Hospital Association all have declared this national emergency. Our own Surgeon General has declared a national emergency as it relates to children’s mental health. And so it’s important for us as we kind of dive into this topic of multi-tiered systems of support and how do we really meet children’s needs. We make sure we’re on the same page with our definition of what is mental health, because, you know, Jeremy and I were, were just kind of chatting a little bit before we, we went live here about, well, what is really mental health?

John Kelly (00:12:42):
And the reality is, that oftentimes we think about mental health as mental illness. And while that is certainly one end of the spectrum, the reality is that mental health really does exist along a spectrum. And on one end of the spectrum is mental wellness. And so as we talk about mental health services within the schools and the provision of mental and behavioral health services within a school system, we’re talking about that full spectrum of services, which includes the promotion of mental wellness. You see all kids need to develop skills. We’ll, we’ll kind of dive into this a little bit more social, emotional competencies, resiliency building skills, cuz that all helps with that aspect of mental wellness. And then yes, some of our kids do need support when they’re struggling with challenges in their life when their mental health is presenting a challenge in their life.

John Kelly (00:13:42):
So it’s really important for us as we have this conversation to have that broad concept of what is mental health from mental wellness to mental illness. That’s a really key concept. And we know, we know for certain that the earlier we can intervene, the better off kids are going to be, no doubt about it. I could quote research for you. You could look up research. It’s common sense. It’s the quicker we can get to these kids. It’s less expensive for a school district because intensive services are more expensive. And so building up good prevention services building up those good universal services is, is, is actually you know, economically makes sense for, for many districts. And we also know that unfortunately the longer kids go without services, the more intense the services are going to be for those kids.

John Kelly (00:14:41):
So how do we effectively do this? Well, it’s about developing a framework and let’s be really clear here. Multi-Tiered systems of support is not an intervention in and of itself. We don’t do multi-tier systems of support as an intervention. No MTSS is a framework that we use to structure those services within the schools. And that’s a really key distinction that we recognize this as a framework and how do we fit in different parts into that framework? And we’re gonna dive into that just a little bit more. So I, I think that many of us I don’t wanna make any assumptions here, but many of us are at least somewhat familiar with, with MTSS. We realize there are different tiers, tier one, tier two, tier three. And, and that, that tier one is universal supports – something that all kids need that we provide to all students within the schools. Tier two, is that, that kind of targeted support for kids who are starting to show emerging issues we’re starting to see some indicators for, for some maladjustment that that might be there. And of course, tier three is though those intensive services that, that we provide. And we’ll, we’ll you know, kind of dive into that a little bit more. But what’s important to recognize is that services at any one of those tiers tiers, one tier two tier three are mental and behavioral health services.

John Kelly (00:16:09):
We often get into this kind of false dichotomy or this kind of false argument about, well, what is a mental health service? What, what is curriculum related to social, emotional learning or resiliency building, you know, what I’ve gotten away from, from those, those, those arguments. And I’m gonna say to you that any of these services that we provide at I, any of the tiers are mental health services. And I think Jeremy and I might get that just a little bit more. So, you know, one of the key things, and I know this is one of the areas that sometimes we struggle with is RTI and, and, you know, is RTI the same as MTSS? And or can we use them interchangeably? Well, yeah, there, there’s different schools of thought on this and, and I’m gonna say to you that for me, MTSS or multi-tier systems to support is an umbrella framework.

John Kelly (00:17:03):
And that RTI is an example of a multi-tier system of support, but oftentimes RTI is focused on more academic interventions, academic supports, how is the student responding to the general curriculum within the classroom? Does the student need additional academic supports to develop reading skills or support them in their math development or, or writing skills. And, and we use data to help determine different levels that we have there more in a response to intervention now with MTSS, because it’s a broader framework we bring into different factors that might impact upon that academic skill achievement. We bring up factors that might relate to social emotional adjustment. We also recognize that there are things in this, in the child’s environment, whether it be family or community that might need intervention or might need support. So for me, the two are not the same RTI is under the umbrella of a multi-tier system of support, but that MTSS is a broader umbrella and a broader framework.

John Kelly (00:18:16):
And this is a common graphic that, that many of us, you know, have certainly seen before we recognize, you know, that, that the two can work hand in hand, whether we’re talking about academic interventions, where we’re talking about mental and behavioral health interventions, we realize that the vast majority of our students can be serviced at that tier one universal level, that some of our students will need that additional kind of target support and then a smaller percentage, hopefully a smaller percentage will need those intensive supports. Now just a quick note, and we may touch upon this a little bit later on that if we find that we’re top heavy, meaning that we find that most of our resources are geared towards those tier three types of, of services, those intensive supports, we’re providing a lot of say individualized counseling or, or we’re we’re top heavy in terms of, of our special education numbers.

John Kelly (00:19:13):
I’m gonna say to you, we need to go back and we need to take a look at those tier one interventions, those tier two supports that we have in place, because when we’re top heavy in terms of tier three, that means that something earlier on the process is simply not working for us, but we’ll dive into that a little bit more. Now, there are some interesting graphics that are from around the country. It might look different in, in your part of, of, of, of the nation than, than it does in, in others. That’s okay. It’s all part of that framework. It’s all part of that umbrella system that is, is developed and recognizing that multi-tiered systems to support may be called a lot of different things, but we’re basically talking about levels of support for kids. So here’s a really key reframe that I think is important in terms of our, our mindsets.

John Kelly (00:20:09):
One of the things that we often think of is somehow mental health services are separate – they’re in their own silo, they’re in their own kind of you know, program. And we have, you know, separate people doing that. And we have our educational staff here and we have our mental health staff here. I think that that’s one of the areas that we need to do a better job at. We need to get her out of our silos. We need to recognize the intersection between students’ mental health and their ability to learn within that classroom. Because again, there’s no doubt. The research is very clear in this, that when a student is struggling in terms of their mental health, they’re going to struggle with their academics. And so there is no separate silo. And we recognize that when we focus on school based mental health services, what we’re really focusing on is the core foundation of what schools are all about.

John Kelly (00:21:12):
And so my reframe for you is to recognize that when we talk about providing mental health services, we’re talking about providing supports for learning, providing supports for that ability for a child to function within the school, providing the ability for the teacher to be effective within that classroom. That’s a key challenge. That’s a key reframe that I want you to be able to think about and to be able to use. So this is a common model. It was, you know developed by the National Association of School Psychologists. The, in terms of what the multi-tiered system of support might look like within the schools, recognizing that all school employed mental health professionals can be involved at those first tiers, that many mental health providers within the schools are providing targeted supports. And we recognize that there is variety in terms of how schools handle those tier three services.

John Kelly (00:22:19):
Sometimes they have the personnel within the school to provide that sometimes they contract with, with someone like eLuma and, and, and provide virtual services for students. And sometimes they have pro services that are provided out in the community, but there’s a recognition that it exists along a continuum. And finally, before I bring Jeremy back into the conversation here, what I think is very, very important for us to think about is that what we’re really talking about is a layering of support services. Students who may need those targeted supports in that tier two, that supplemental support don’t stop getting the support at that tier one. They’re not distinct silos. Kids who are getting those intensive supports kids, maybe who are in our special education programs, don’t stop getting supports at a universal level, or even maybe even at a targeted level, that’s open for general education students.

John Kelly (00:23:24):
And so what’s very, very important as we think about multi-tiered systems to support is that we’re not talking about distinct silos. We’re not talking about separate layers. We’re talking about a layer of support that exists at all three levels. So let me kind of pause for, for a moment here. I know that some questions are coming in. There’s some surveys that are going on in, in the chat, but you know, Jeremy, I’d love to kind of bring you back in and I’m gonna stop sharing my screen here for a moment. And you would love to keep an opportunity to kind of dive in some, those big ideas.

Jeremy Glauser (00:24:00):
We just about. I wait to dive in. This is just such an important topic. There’s so much to unpack. I, I loved your comments about the RTI, MTSS, how we use the terms for mental health SEL behavioral interventions as a country. We struggle with terminology and to get on the same page sometimes. And so one of the things that I wanted to follow up on and, and dig into a little bit more with you, John, is, is at what point, and where does the MTSS and RTI interventions diverge, you know, you had a slide on that, but let’s go back and revisit that. What really is the difference between those if you can help reiterate and, and, and maybe even some examples that you can help us as we try to apply this.

John Kelly (00:24:58):
Yeah. You know, it’s a great question, Jeremy. I appreciate it. You know, an opportunity to kind of dive into that a little bit more. You know, a, as I said, I look at at multi tiered systems of support as a framework and that’s really keyframing, no pun intended for, for us to, to have in, in that you know, that it’s not necessarily an intervention, it’s not just one way of doing things. It’s really kind of a system of support or systems of support for, for students. And that can look like academic supports, which is much more in my mind, what response to intervention or RTI is all about. You know, RTI is, is often, you know, related to academics. Now that’s not to say that that sometimes some school districts, I know, do use response to intervention as relates to mental health support such you know, students adjustment, behavioral adjustment you know, when, when we have some supports built in behavioral supports for student we’re monitoring data, watching how they’re responding to that intervention, making decisions. So, listen, I, I get it. I don’t want to kind of be so hard and fast and say, you know, RTI is only academic, but, but traditionally, when we talk about response to intervention, we’re, we’re recognizing that as talking about academics, but the broader network is really the, the multi-tiered system of of support framework.

Jeremy Glauser (00:26:26):
I really appreciate that John and, and clarifying I need to give some credit to my comments Ed Ryan on our team and, and and some of his teammates have put together quite a bit of research. And I think some of the confusion does originate from where RTI began. RTI began before MTSS really was terminology that we were using commonly and it was geared toward academic interventions. And to your point, it’s, it’s not just, or we, we can’t always just pigeonhole it to the academic, but that’s where a lot of it began. And over, over time, we obviously have behavioral intervention supports. We have social-emotional supports and, and interventions. And as we’ve evolved, we’ve needed this broader framework to work and operate within. And I think that that’s why sometimes we see confusion or interchangeably using RTI and MTSS maybe.

John Kelly (00:27:35):
Yeah. Yeah. I, I would definitely agree with you, Jeremy. And I think that for me, it comes from the, the kind of concept we don’t wanna wait for kids to fail, to provide some type of intervention that when we have these tiered supports, as I said earlier on we’re catching kids early, and we know that through the research that that early intervention is critical for outcomes. And, and so whether it be academics or you know, social, emotional, behavioral type of factors, it’s also about using data. And, and, and understanding kind of what the data is telling us about students. And, and recognizing, you know, when are certain times kind of normal trajectory or normal progression you know, versus kids that, that might be veering off that, that, that expected growth and, and maybe needing those interventions.

Jeremy Glauser (00:28:28):
It goes back to the story you told at the very beginning, oftentimes we’re intervening versus preventing and, and the world is changing and it will continue to change. And sometimes we need to go back up the top of the river and see where, where we might need to improve. You know, I, we’ve got some questions coming in that I’d love to pose, and this is perfect. These are great to build on what are some of the common variations you see in districts implementing the MTSS framework.

John Kelly (00:29:08):
That, that, that’s a great question. And I’m gonna freely admit that it’s not an easy one to answer because there is great variability. And, and oftentimes it comes down to, for me, two factors. One is the philosophy that the district is kind of operating under. And, and it’s why I try to broaden our definition as we relate to mental health and recognize, we’re not just talking about mental illness and intervening for kids who are struggling, we’re challenged with, with mental health issues that we’re really talking about mental wellness as well in the promotion of mental wellness. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And so some of the variation comes in in terms of where the services are targeted. And, and as they said earlier, if we find ourselves targeting or, or devoting a lot of our resources towards those tier three, those intensive services, I’m gonna say to you, we’re not doing enough at that tier one and tier two level.

John Kelly (00:30:09):
And so that’s where some of the variation comes in. I do wanna acknowledge resources. And that, you know at times school districts are challenged whether it be financial resources resources in terms of personnel there’s great shortages that are out there, you know, in terms of school psychologists social workers school counselors, nurses, you know, within the, within the education profession, those that provide mental health services. You know, unfortunately there’s some shortages, I think, and, and please don’t, this is not a shameless plug for eLuma, but I think it’s, it’s where we’re seeing the value of virtual services starting to come in. We saw the value of that during the pandemic where it can fill gaps for us within the schools themselves. So I think the two big areas of variation are one, the philosophy that the school has and making sure we have that broad philosophy of mental health promotion and the second is kind of resources and acknowledging where resources are going to vary from district to district.

Jeremy Glauser (00:31:14):
Yeah, I, I really appreciate that because a one size fits all approach never works, especially in our schools where there can be different socioeconomic or cultural, or even geographical differences that required adaptation or just different priorities at the time. And to your point about innovation, I think that, that we’ve seen a lot of, of forced technological use in the past few years because of learning virtually and not learning virtually and hybrid, and many, many teachers and administrators have, have had a lot of technology that they’ve had to adopt quickly. And in this area of, of MTSS and balancing the, the increased urgency to address mental health, we do need to be open to innovative, yet research based practices that that will help students learn. And because in, in my experience, I’m a father of five, and I’ve been doing this in, in schools for a long time.

Jeremy Glauser (00:32:34):
Nonacademic factors are an incredibly important element to academic performance. I was working with a team on a project that would help students on a free and reduced program, get food in their stomachs. And it’s common sense. Like you said, there is a lot of research to show that we, we can’t get past those primitive needs to feed our bodies and learn until we’ve, we’ve had enough food and we’ve had enough to drink, you know, and, and that was an incredible project. That was an incredible experience because it did have a, a tremendous impact on these students’ ability to, to focus in class and to perform just for the simple fact that they were able to eat breakfast and they were able to eat lunch.

John Kelly (00:33:32):
100%. And that’s a great example, Jeremy, of, of where a multi tiered systems of support really takes into account those factors, right? That’s, that’s the broad nature of, of really what I’m talking about.

Jeremy Glauser (00:33:42):
Yeah. I love it. Well, let’s keep building on this. There are lots of questions that we could go in lots of directions. Thankfully, we have a good amount of time and you, you did discuss this a little bit, but maybe we can go in a little more detail around the term SEL and mental health and where those converge, because it is such an important topic in the country. We’re seeing the safer communities act of 2022 that was passed not too long ago. We see that California governor Newsome has announced a $4.7 billion bill or plan if you will, that will address mental health. So we read all these things, we hear all these things help us reconcile mental health and SEL at a practical level.

John Kelly (00:34:35):
Yeah, yeah. This is an area where I know you and I share a passion for what I call this one of my soapbox issues for, so forgive me for, for getting up on my soapbox.

Jeremy Glauser (00:34:44):
Hey, you get on that soapbox, John.

John Kelly (00:34:46):
For just a moment. You know, the reality is we talk about social, emotional learning and se or SEL. I do look at that as part of mental health because it goes right along with what I was saying just a moment ago. And I mentioned earlier that for me, the promotion of mental wellness helping kids in terms of, of developing emotional regulations, how do they kind of regulate those, those big feelings that they have at times? How do they manage conflicts in their life? How do they develop relationships in their life? It’s all about building those social, emotional competencies. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and that is part of mental wellness and
Jeremy Glauser (00:35:30):
John Kelly (00:35:30):
A <laugh>, we, we have a role within the schools to do that. It’s, it should be part of our universal supports. All of our kids need these types of skills. All of our kids need to know how to regulate their emotions. All of our kids need to know how to manage conflict in life. All of our kids need relationship building skills. So social, emotional competency is part or should be part of our mental health promotion, our mental health, our mental wellness. I don’t care what you call it. As I said before our approach there. So there’s a clear intersection that is there. We also know, and the research is very clear that collaborative for academic, social, emotional learning, or casel.org has done some amazing research around social and emotional learning. And this is often something I talk to my teacher colleagues about is that when we teach kids these competencies and we help them develop it, they actually perform better in the classroom. They perform better on academic skill building. And, and so I talk about it with my teacher colleagues about how I’m gonna help you be more effective in that classroom by helping our kids develop these social, emotional competencies. So there there’s a, you know, it’s part of what I had said before. It’s, you know, mental health, social, emotional learning, it’s all part about the promotion of learning for kids.

Jeremy Glauser (00:36:56):
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I had, I had an experience not too long ago with an administrator who basically said we, we don’t do SEL we’re focused on the climate and the culture. Yeah. And I just, that, that struck me as very interesting because in my mind, those aren’t, those aren’t independent or mutually exclusive, but rather I think what this administrator was communicating was look, that’s our priority right now. And in order to build a healthy student body and to build wellness, we have to address climate and culture, you know, and, and I think that, that as we, as a country, as we move forward and we, we strive to really do what we’re talking about here and help kids build the relational adeptness and skills, the resilience. And, but then also know how to cope with depression and anxiety that we’re, we’re looking at it from a, a holistic standpoint.

Jeremy Glauser (00:38:08):
And I think in my experience, what I’ve, what I’ve seen is that you almost have mental health, like you said, referring to anxiety, depression, and this, this maybe it’s a diagnosed disorder of, of sorts, right. And then you have social emotional focus on those competencies that you also reviewed. And whereas they’re very complementary to one another, and we have to create partnerships between school counselors and classroom teachers. So maybe we can, this launches us into another follow up question, which is what are some of the mental health issues I don’t know, maybe practice is the best word at a tier one level to help us address this for all students. Does that make sense?

John Kelly (00:39:05):
Yeah. No, it does. And, and I’m gonna just quickly come back to the comment that, that this administrator made to kind of yeah, please answer this question cuz it’s, it’s, you know, it’s a comment that, that we often hear and, and I wanna acknowledge, I wanna fully acknowledge that different schools have different priorities. Absolutely. You know what? Your school and hopefully your, your priority setting is established based upon, you know, maybe some data that you’re collecting or, or information that you have about where those challenges are coming in for students. And so, you know, now you hear an administrator say, well, we’re focused on, on school climate. My reaction is similar to yours in that. Well, okay. We could focus on school climate. But mental health is part of that. Yeah. social-emotional competencies, you know, kids getting along, kids managing conflicts, it’s all part of the school climate. And, and so what we wanna recognize at that tier one level comes to the question itself, and what do mental health services look like at that tier one level?

John Kelly (00:40:18):
Let’s kind of make sure we’re on the same page, tier one, universal supports all kids get, get exposed to.

Jeremy Glauser (00:40:30):
This. Absolutely.

John Kelly (00:40:30):
Agreed. So these are, or things that exist within the school environment itself. So few examples you know, are and, and, and, you know, every, I always think back to a comment that a colleague and good friend of mine Byron MCLE made to me where he said, you know, oftentimes schools will go to a guide and they’ll, they’ll pick out a curriculum and they’ll try and implement it in their schools. And then they kind of come back and say, well, it didn’t work. And, and so what’s very important to recognize is that you have to choose a program or an approach that fits your needs, that fits your community. You said it before Jeremy, it’s not a one size fits all. And, and so as we talk about social, emotional curriculums or programs or approaches, we have to recognize, we need to understand our school population and what the needs are.

John Kelly (00:41:19):
We need to understand our community and what the needs are of, of the community that exists there. Now, to me, sometimes social-emotional learning is not always about curriculum. It’s not always about purchasing this curriculum. Yes, let’s, let’s not, you know, kind of bring in this, this, you know, program. I,I, you know, again, working 35 years in the schools, I often walked into a teacher’s classroom and said, I got this great program and I wanna do it in your classroom. And more times than not, the teacher did embrace that.

Jeremy Glauser (00:41:48):
The teacher just looks at you and says, “oh, come on, John, not one more thing.”

John Kelly (00:41:52):
Now, I like to pride myself on having good relationships with my colleagues <laugh>, but yes, they were very direct and said, John, where and when. And, and so what I think is really important for us to recognize is that there are ways to infuse this work into what we’re already doing. We don’t need to bring in something brand new, something additional, something that, that a teacher needs to learn. No, we can often look at what teachers are already doing within the classroom, using literature, using books. And, and we talk about, you know, books at, at a kindergarten level all the way up through 12th grade. We could talk about what

Jeremy Glauser (00:42:27):
You mean as a book on the topic of building a competency, right?

John Kelly (00:42:32):
Absolutely. If we’re teaching,

Jeremy Glauser (00:42:34):
How many, if we’re teaching a reading skill that day in class, let’s use a book that, that discusses Susie and Johnny resolving a conflict

John Kelly (00:42:45):
100% yeah. Building relationship how Johnny, you know, had to, to, to manage his strong emotions, you know, at, at the high school level. And I primarily worked at the high school level, there’s lots of examples of literature that the kids are reading, where we could pull out all kinds of social-emotional competency, types of themes and use it and infuse it within the classroom itself. Those are important. But beyond social-emotional learning, I think we also recognize they’re resiliency building skills. And then how do we really help kids develop? You know, it’s important to allow challenges. It’s important to allow itat times. And I know this seems a little counterintuitive, but there are times where kids struggle at a certain level is not a bad thing. Working through resolving conflicts, working through difficulties actually helps develop that sense of resiliency. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> knowing that we have people there to support us is important, but also developing a sense of competency is an important resiliency building skill.

Jeremy Glauser (00:43:43):
Yeah. And, and the self-awareness, that’s so important with saying I did that and the, the ability to rely on yourself to do something versus a third party to mediate a conflict, but that I can sit in an uncomfortable space and I can have a conflict, or I can build a relationship. I can feel awkward. I can love who I am. There’s actually a really interesting comment in here. And then there’s another one that we probably should go back to from Jessica, but Mike is suggesting some great ideas. And I’d love to hear your, your reaction to this, John, and maybe some additional ideas, but how about supports that extend outside of the school, like incorporating good sleep and nutrition education, or educating on blue lights, et cetera, that, you know, and then the very last one, which I think is key is parent right. Parent education, because they’re part is that this is their child. We can’t forget about the parents. So what, what comments do you have either validating or building on?

John Kelly (00:44:52):
No. And, and was it Mike? Who, who offered those? Yeah. Mike, you bring up some excellent, excellent suggestions there. It was kind of where I wanted to go next in terms of let’s branch outside of the classroom, cuz yes, there are lots of things that we could do in the classroom, but schoolwide supports our, our, our critical part of tier one interventions. You know, we, we talk about positive behavioral supports you know, some type of here’s your school climate issue that, that the administrator was talking about before. That’s all part of the tier one interventions that are there. But I love the piece that, that Mike brought up about parents cuz he has, parents are part of this process and doing parent education for me is a tier one support. Whether it be about good sleep habits or, or whether it be about infusing in conflict management and helping them to, to work that into some of the work they’re doing at home.

Jeremy Glauser (00:45:49):
Community resources, lots of options. 

John Kelly (00:45:50):
Absolutely. And you know, coming back to your example before about nutrition and, and you know, the project that you worked on, you know, prior to eLuma Jeremy, quite honestly, those are all factors. That’s why an MTSS type of framework really is broad and encompasses all of these different factors.

Jeremy Glauser (00:46:10):
I love that. Mike, thank you so much for your comment, John, thank you for your insight. I think it’s safe to say, and, and, you know, assume here that, that, that schools are looking at this complex set of factors and issues and then prioritizing based on data, based on their students, based on their, their own teacher feedback. There’s a topic back here that Jessica brings up that I think we need to address. It’s a, it’s a tricky one and it says, I have grave concerns about the rhetoric and extreme parent advocacy groups. So against SEL in schools, are you seeing this in your area as well? Do you have suggestions on how to market or advocate for mental health, wellness and SEL? And if you don’t mind, I’d like to make a comment to kick this off and then hear what you have to say, John, there is lots of different rhetoric and advocacy that’s happening.

Jeremy Glauser (00:47:10):
So I don’t know exactly what you’re talking to specifically, Jessica, but there is a very common one and a very popular one that I am aware of right now. And that is a school’s ability to screen students without parent consent. That’s been a big topic of discussion in, in many areas of, of this country. And I, I think that that’s a challenging situation. The stance today is that because it’s a screening and it’s not a formal assessment to determine eligibility or categorical you know placement a screening, a school is allowed to do screening, you know, to of the students that might need some, you know, to check in on their social, emotional or mental wellness across the school. And, and that does inform many of the tier one practices that schools are implementing across the country. I think another, another one is how involved parents should be, or should not be in talk therapy. If a student is engaged with a, a school counselor or a school psychologist around specific issues or questions regarding depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, again, that’s tricky. I don’t have a good answer for that one other than schools hiring great professionals who make great judgements based on their training, right. And there’s gotta be a level of trust there. And I think that’s where it starts: can we trust each other? And how do we build that trust if it’s not there, John I’ve spoken too much?

John Kelly (00:48:57):
No, no, no. I think you tapped into one of the areas and, and it, it was, it was Jackie correct. Who, who posed the question? Jessica, Jessica, I apologize. It was Jessica I think you tapped into some of the areas that, that Jessica was alluding to couple quick comments, but I think there are broader issues also that, that Jessica is referring to. Hey, listen, I’m, I I’m, I’m a big believer. I’m a parent myself, and I know this is a cliche, but parents are partners in education mm-hmm <affirmative>. And we can’t leave parents out of the process. And you know, parents say parent rights are, are critical that we honor that. And we, and we respect that. My issue more comes in terms of informed parents. And I think that, unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation that is in fact out there in terms of what we’re trying to do in the schools and what we’re trying to teach and help kids develop and whether relate to screening whether relate to the provision of, of services you know, to, to students.

John Kelly (00:50:00):
You know, I, I, I think that that’s one area of controversy, but I think that what, what Jessica is referring to also, as it relates specifically to social-emotional learning, is that there has been some pushback in some communities across the nation, in terms of social, emotional learning. It’s got caught up in a lot of the other rhetoric that unfortunately has become very politicized. And kind of a, what I really think is a misunderstanding of what social, emotional learning and social emotional competencies are all about. And you know, get gets caught up with, and I wanna be really careful cause I always try to honor different views and different perspectives, but we hear words like indoctrination and we hear words like you know you know, somehow only teaching one point of view or one perspective that might differ from a, a parent’s a point of view.

John Kelly (00:50:58):
And, and really for, for those of us that are doing this <laugh> and then working in the schools, we know that when we talk about social emotional competencies, we’re not talking about indoctrinating kids, we’re not talking about presenting only one perspective. And, and so for me, a lot of it comes in terms of parent education and coming all the way back to Mike’s point before about involving parents at that tier one, if we’re going to do social, emotional programming within the schools, it’s important to talk to the community about exactly what we’re doing. That’s what I did within my own school community. I didn’t run into significant pushback within, within my own community, but certainly there were questions about what were we teaching, what were we doing? What are we’re helping kids develop? And I found that the more we spoke to parents, the more understanding they were of what we were a being asked to do. Now admittedly, that’s not gonna work for some parents. We, we know, and this is just part of the times we’re living in that there’s a segment of our population that you know, has certain beliefs and certain viewpoints that we’ll never be able, to change some of that. And that presents challenges.

Jeremy Glauser (00:52:08):
I really appreciate your answer there. And I think it resonates with a lot of us. It’s getting good information, educating ourselves, educating each other, and hopefully we can somehow build trust between the different constituents in this, in this process. We have time to end on one last question, and then I know John, you wanna talk about what’s coming up and, and we’ll close and let everyone go. This last question is the intersection, or how does special education fit into MTSS? Can you talk to us a little bit about how and where does that fit into MTSS?

John Kelly (00:52:50):
Yeah, it’s a great question because I think that many times, whether again, you’d be an administrator or teacher clinician, you’re kind of wondering, well, you know, is special education something separate? Is it somehow a different system that we work in? And the simple answer is, is no. The, the simple answer is that our special education services should be, and are often part of that multi-tiered system of support. They’re they’re at that, that tier three, the intensive support level. But as I had said earlier to me, everyone in the school, and I genuinely mean everyone in the school is responsible for a multitiered system of support. So our general educators, our administrators, our school counselors, our psychologists, social workers, nurses you know, everyone involved with students is part of that multi tiered system of support. And, and so while special education services may exist within that tier three intensive support, the reality is is that these children are not tier three kids. They are kids, they’re everyone’s kids. And so the general . . .

Jeremy Glauser (00:54:01):
They’re not a tier three student or a tier two student, they’re a student who’s receiving tier two interventions.

John Kelly (00:54:07):
Exactly, exactly. And, and so it’s important as we look at our special education process, that our kids have an opportunity to go through the levels of support. We should never immediately jump to that intensive, special education level. Our kids should be receiving good quality, universal supports, good quality interventions at that tier one level. If they’re starting to show some, some, you know, challenges, some difficulties that we’ve given them the opportunity to experience the tier two targeted supports. If they’re not responding to that, this is kind of where, again, it fits in with that RTI model that we were talking about a little bit earlier. Then we might look at more of a special education type of process at that tier three level. But for me, special education really well, the services may be housed or exist within that tier three. It really should be a continuum of services for these children.

Jeremy Glauser (00:55:08):
Yeah. And I, I think that that last statement kind of summed up when I was thinking as well, is that that universal at tier one is for all students and really ultimately the goal and the objective of an MTSS framework is to bring all students back to tier one, right? We don’t want students to forever be receiving tier two or tier three. We want them to be as healthy, as competent, and prosperous as they can be. Now, that’s not to say that there should be a stigma for kids who need extended amounts of help either. But the goal being that we want all kids to return back to that tier one. And, and just to clarify for our audience, cuz I think I know what, what we’re talking about, what you’re saying is, is special education usually exists at a tier three intensive level, although there are tier three interventions that aren’t special education interventions.

John Kelly (00:56:07):
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Great clarification. I appreciate that Jeremy, because yes, tier three is not all encompassing for special education. That’s an example of a tier three type of intervention, but absolutely our, our gen ed kids you know, can, can be involved at that tier three level if their needs exist there 100%.

Jeremy Glauser (00:56:29):
Yeah, man, this has been such a fabulous conversation. You’ve provided so many insights. Thank you for all of those out there who have contributed to the conversation through registering, participating, asking questions, making comments, we’re gonna continue forward with our, our series. And, and this is a format that you can expect to have your input and your involvement does make a difference. You are part of the conversation with that. John, I’m gonna hand it back to you too, to tell us a little more about what’s coming up and then we’ll close.

John Kelly (00:57:04):
Well, thank you for that, Jeremy. I do appreciate it. You know, the series is, is Office hours with Dr. John Kelly. And I often talk about it as you know, I’m inviting you in, I love having these conversations if you can’t tell already, but I love having these conversations and it often is what I would have with colleagues within my office. And so to have the series entitled Office hours with Dr. John Kelly, that’s exactly what you’ll experience. We’re gonna talk for the next nine or so nine or 10 different sessions about multi-tiered systems of support. I realized we didn’t get to everything. We didn’t get to all of your questions, but we promise to dive in deep at each level, we’re gonna spend some time talking about tier one services, our, our next guest coming up Dr. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, school psychologist. She also works at the National Association of School Psychologists and does a lot of advocacy work. She is gonna come and talk about some of the upcoming funding that’s available. We talk about resources before it was, you know, a major roadblock that fortunately we’re beginning to address. And Kelly’s gonna come in and talk a little bit about some of that. We have upcoming guests who are gonna come and talk about using data. We’re gonna talk about teletherapy. We’re gonna dive into tier two services, tier three services at the end. So hopefully today we’ve kind of wet your appetite. We’ve given you an opportunity to think a little bit about this but hopefully we’re kind of leaving you with wanting just a little bit more <laugh> if, if you’re leaving today a little frustrated, wanting a little bit more, I apologize, but that’s part of what I tried to create today. But let me just quickly share, give you a little taste of what’s coming up in our, our next couple of weeks. This is kind of an ongoing series that we have here. We have you know Elum was putting on, and I’ll let you talk a little bit about this Jeremy Phyllis Wolfram.

Jeremy Glauser (00:59:05):
Yeah, we’re so excited to welcome Phyllis. Phyllis is the Executive Director for CASE and has an incredible background in special education. We’ll be taking this outside of the Office Hours with Dr. John Kelly webinar series. This is a one off and we do a lot of those one offs. So come join us next Friday. That will be incredible with her. And then on the next slide, we’ve got the one that John referenced, which is with Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach. This is part of the MTSS and mental health webinar series or Office Hours with Dr. John Kelly. That’s on September 14th, go to eLuma.com/webinars. Please register. You can register as far out into the future as you would like whether you can attend live, or just watch the recording, please register. This is such a great amount of content. And then lastly, we just wanna thank you for being here and thank you for spending your time with us. Follow us on, on social outlets, Facebook, Twitter visit our website. Lots of great resources there, have a wonderful day, and we’ll see you at the next webinar. Thank you.

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George Dayton

George Dayton

George Dayton is the Director of Marketing & Business Development at eLuma Online Therapy. He earned a Bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University as well as a Master's Degree in Business Administration from the Woodbury School of Business. Mr. Dayton has spent the larger part of his career developing, producing and distributing filmed content for kids and families ( including the award-winning remake of the film Where the Red Fern Grows for Buena Vista Home Entertainment). In more recent years, he has worked on ventures more closely related to children's welfare and education. He served as one of the founding members of Kidnected World, the Student Orphan Aid Program, and also helped launched the Autism Initiative for Vivint Gives Back. Mr. Dayton is passionate about eLuma and its cause, and hopes to help find new ways in which the company can partner with schools to maximize student outcomes!